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French Covid health pass 'saved almost 4,000 lives'

Sam Bradpiece
Sam Bradpiece - [email protected]
French Covid health pass 'saved almost 4,000 lives'
A woman in France prepares to receive a Covid vaccination. A new study suggests that the French health pass has been highly effective in increasing vaccination rates, preventing deaths and boosting the economy. (Photo by CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP)

France's Covid-19 health pass has saved almost 4,000 people's lives, eased the pressure on hospitals and helped to keep the economy afloat, according to a new report from an economic analysis group.

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France's Council of Economic Analysis, a group that advises the government, has produced a report on the impact of the health pass from its introduction on July 12th until the end of 2021 - and its headline finding is that the pass saved almost 4,000 lives.

The French health pass was introduced by the government in the summer of 2021 and its stated purpose was twofold; to stem the spread of the Covid pandemic and increase vaccination rates. 

To hold a valid health pass, French citizens must either have proof of full vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or a negative PCR or antigen test taken within the past 24 hours. It is needed to access a wide range of venues such as restaurants, cafés, bars, cinemas, theatres, tourist venues, gyms, leisure centres and to use long-distance trains or visit health centres as a visitor or for non-emergency treatment.

A new study from the Council of Economic Analysis, an independent consortium of economists that advises the French Prime Minister's office, has shown that the health pass has been a mighty success. 

The study refers to health passes as "Covid certificates". 

"We estimate that the announcement of Covid certificates during summer 2021 led to increased vaccine uptake in France of 13.0 percentage points  of the total population until the end of the year," write the authors. 

"Further, this averted an additional 3,979 (3,453‐4,298) deaths in France." 

"Notably, the application of Covid certificates substantially reduced the pressure on intensive care units (ICUs) and, in France, averted surpassing the occupancy levels where prior lockdowns were instated." 

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This graph shows the estimated impact of the health pass on the vaccination rate (the percentage of the population who received at least one jab). The red shaded area is the 95 percent confidence interval. The black dashed vertical line is the date of the announcement of the health pass. Source: Conseil d'analyse économique

To estimate the impact of the health pass, the researchers had to model a "counterfactual" scenario in which the health pass was never introduced.

To do this, they imagined that the rate of vaccination continued at the same rate that it had done prior to the introduction of the health pass - as with any counterfactual, there is no guarantee that the proportional impact of the health pass indicated by this modelling is 100 percent correct. 

The authors argue that increased vaccination rates and other positive impacts engendered by the health pass prevented around 32,065 hospitalisations and 3,979 deaths in France. 

The claim that vaccination reduces fatality from Covid is backed by the country's experience of the fifth wave, which has seen record numbers of new infections but a lower fatality rate than during previous waves

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The researchers also estimated that the health pass had positive economic benefits. 

In France, they claim that the estimated weekly GDP growth from July to the end of 2021 was 0.6 percent higher with the health pass than it would have been without. 

Weekly GDP (3‐week rolling average) in the actual intervention deployment (blue) and in the no‐intervention counterfactual scenario (red). The red shaded area is the 95% confidence interval. The black dashed vertical line is the date of the announcement of the COVID certificate. Source: Conseil d'analyse économique
 

"Covid certificates may spur economic recovery in the short run, as newly vaccinated people can safely resume in‐ person economic activities, including working on‐site and consuming goods as well as services in brick‐and‐mortar businesses (direct effect)," write the authors. 

"Furthermore, an indirect effect results from avoiding restrictions, through public health measures, on social, education, and economic activities." 

To calculate the economic impact of the health pass, the researchers used data from the OECD. 

The impact of the pass appears to be ongoing. Vaccination rates continue to climb in France where close to 80 percent of people have had at least one dose and the number of people who have received a booster dose is soaring - more than 40 percent of the total population have received a booster dose. 

This graph indicates the number of people who have received vaccinations in France. The dark blue represents those who received a booster dose, the medium shows 'fully vaccinated' people and the light blue shows partially vaccinated people. Source: CovidTracker

On Saturday, a change to the health pass came into effect mandating that all over 18s had to get a booster dose within seven months of completing their initial cycle of vaccination - or face having their health passes deactivated. This is likely the reason that the booster dose uptake has climbed significantly in recent weeks. 

The health pass will soon be transformed into a vaccine pass which means that holding a negative Covid test result will no longer serve as a condition for holding an active pass. This will probably drive the vaccination rate further. 

Tourists in France are also required to use the health pass, but do not currently require a booster dose for entry into the country

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Daniela.Provvedi_305595 2022/01/18 21:32
I can't believe people STILL think that the health pass / vaccine passport is a good thing. The Local states that the "purpose of these are twofold; to stem the spread of the Covid pandemic and increase vaccination rates". Well, increasing vaccination rates is certainly true. I would use the words coerce, bully, force. But to stem the spread of covid? Oh come on! Washing your hands often, standing a little distance away from ill people, and using anti-bacterial sprays/gel is what will stem the spread. The vaccine passport itself won't stop the spreading of covid. As usual, France is lagging behind Britain regards to dealing with covid. Macron's awful dictatorial behaviour will be France's downfall. Oh I bet the British are thanking God for Brexit.
  • donutdebs55 2022/01/26 21:07
    How did they arrive at the 4000 figure, more of that famous modelling hahaha. I don’t believe a single word that comes out of any governments mouth or their controlled media any more. It’s election time after all!
  • 104Paris15 2022/01/19 09:53
    The vaccine passport has encouraged more French to take up the vaccince, which no doubt reduces the burden in hospitals and intensive care units, and it also dampens the spread of the disease to some extent. As for the success of Britain's handling of the crisis, I would ask the families of the 155 000 dead for their views, rather than whine about the French vaccine pass. https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7496/documents/78687/default/
  • flosinger 2022/01/19 09:34
    Spot on Daniela!
  • stuart.laing 2022/01/18 22:33
    It also follows that if the Pass saved lives by increasing vaccination take-up, whatever / whoever caused the delay to the rollout of the vaccines in the first place and the undermining of confidence in those same vaccines , must have cost lives. True ?

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